An American History of Hogs

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My parents are, to put it bluntly, antique hoarders. Apart from couches and dining tables, few of the furniture items in their home are truly serving their original functions. Their curio cabinet, for example, is an American Legion Hall gun cabinet from Floyd County, Iowa, and their living room coffee table is an egg incubator from an old barn. In fact, further proving their resourcefulness, they even have an antique wooden toilet, with a steel bucket inside, which they use as an end table, and which my father threatens, to this day, to serve chili from at a party.

While I don’t have nearly the same obsession with antiques as they do, growing up around them, the bug has, at least to some degree, worn off on me. All those years of countless trips to antique stores left me fascinated not just by the history of the items that returned to our own home, but by the stories surrounding every item I would encounter.

Today, in my own home, this is reflected in some of my own items like my dresser–an antique wardrobe I built shelving into–and a storage cabinet in our dining room which is actually an oak icebox. It has always been photographs, however, that I have been particularly drawn to. Even when they are reproductions.

Take those you’ll find in a chain restaurant like Mimi’s Cafe. Assuming they don’t outfit each restaurant with a different set of gathered photographs, the people in those photos are scattered throughout the nation in Mimi’s 138 locations. But who are they? Are any of them Mimi, and do their relatives dine in the restaurant, see their photographs, and think, “hey, that’s Grandma.”? More than anything I look at those photographs and wonder what stories the people would have to tell as they certainly never imagined that one day a subsidiary of Bob Evan’s would have them plastered on the wall.

Whatever my reasons for wondering about the people and places in these antique photos, due to my clear fascination, I recently began purchasing them along with vintage advertisements. In the past I had purchased some chef-related photos,

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Truly Happy Meat

deepfreeze.jpgI’m only singling her out because she made a post about something I’d been meaning to comment on previously but, in the forum thread “Food Related Goals for 2009“, Merridith wrote:

…I want to restrict my meat eating, as best I can, to sustainably produced, naturally raised, animals. First choice will be to buy direct from the farmer, if I need it fast, I will buy it from the organic grocery.

The idea of this is absolutely great, but the reality is that even meat at an organic grocer isn’t really all that happy because terms like organic, free range, and pastured have all been picked up by agribusiness and distorted wildly. You can have “organic” pork that was confined just as you can have “pastured” beef that is really just pumped full of corn. And that’s not to say I don’t occasionally buy meat in a store like Whole Foods,

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“the egg of ultimate darkness”

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Although (as mentioned before) it’s firmly planted in the unique category of foods I actually won’t try even once, the Southeast Asian delicacy balut fascinates me. Traditionally Balut is a hard-boiled duck egg with a fertilized and mostly-developed embryo. I first witnessed it when the parents of a Filipina girl I was dating told me it was customary for anyone wanting to marry into a Filipino family to consume one. When they were described to me as “crunchy hard-boiled eggs,” and that “sometimes there are some feathers,” I happily refused.

For those of you also intrigued by balut–and I know that’s some of you as I’ve gotten emails wondering where to pick them up locally–I stumbled across a blog post by some St. Louis Atheists that documented their escapade with some of the better balut photos I’ve seen–by better I mean most disgusting.

And of course, a tasty excerpt:

Most Americans will tell you that the first time you eat balut, it helps if you don’t think about exactly what you’re eating. Screw that. I knew what I was eating. I stared into it’s little cloudy eyes. I gently pulled open its beak and looked at the little tongue inside. Then, I put it in my mouth and felt what my eyes had already seen.

Event: Organic Gardening Club

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In the past I’ve put off home-gardening because I’d hoped to move soon and didn’t want the mess in my backyard. But, with the economy what it is, I’m not going anywhere soon. So perhaps you, like I, plan to make gardening a part of your new year. And if you’re really like me, you’re better at killing things then growing them so the inaugural meeting of the Missouri Organic Association’s Organic Garden Club might just be for you.

The cost is $5 and the event will be held Thursday, January 8 at the Town & Country location of Whole Foods from 6:30-8:00 PM. Friend of Slow Food St. Louis Molly Rockamann of EarthDance Farms will be there to speak and answer questions as well as show EarthDance’s short-film, Connoisseur of Fine Foods, about Mueller Organic Farms in Ferguson, MO. You can catch a teaser of the film on YouTube.

Further details and registration information can be found online at WholeFoodsMarket.com.

The Good Pie

It’s once again that time where a restaurant opens anew and wows us with a website astonishingly void of information such as phone numbers and sample menus. Though at least the address is there.

So, when next you’re making dinner plans and pizza is on your mind, here’s the info you’ll need to decide if The Good Pie is a worthy recipient of your hard-earned recession dollars.

The Good Pie
3137 Olive Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103
314.289.9391
(it’s less than one block West of Pappy’s)

As Neapolitan style pizza is a definite St. Louis void in need of filling, I have high hopes for The Good Pie. I do hope, however, that they play it a little less safe in the future because nothing on this menu is really pushing the pounds of what a Neapolitan style pizza can be.  Oh, and to the owner, you misspelled “Romano”.

Thanks to Jeff Stettner for the menu (which you can click).

Buena suerte El Borracho

Maybe it’s just one man’s opinion (mine) but, in these tough economic times, these are not the kinds of details that say, “this restaurant is going to be a St. Louis classic for decades to come.”

…features affordable fresh authentic Mexican food that is “drunk” with flavors- patrons will be able to customize signature items such as tacos, burritos, and tamales, in either authentic Mexican or Americanized “Gringo” style.

[The] 2100 square-foot space, which formerly housed Nectar Lounge, has been completely transformed and now evokes a “Tarantino-meets-Tijuana” vibe…

[VIA: Off the Menu]

Pear V. Apple

There was a time in my life where the Peanut Toffee Buzz CLIF Bar was a staple of my diet. Each year, however, the holiday season would sweep in a monotony buster as Spiced Pumpkin Pie hit shelves for a limited time. I loved those things and, although I literally ate one every day for years, that time is now behind me.

That said, Ellie spotted a new seasonal flavor last week: Pear Apple Strudel. A swift purchase was made and sticky hands were once again mine via Clif and his bar of propriety ingredients like ClifProTM and ClifCrunchTM (which contains something called Inulin that is some sort Chicory Extract that increases calcium absorption).

It did not, incidentally, taste much like pears–only apples—and a skimming of the ingredients list confirmed my suspicion that the bar contained more apples than it did pears. So what I want to know is: What kind of marketing research went on that told the Clif sales and marketing people that the Pear Apple Strudel was going to sell better than the Apple Pear Strudel?

And, in case you were wondering, yes, it did taste pretty good, but it was no Peanut Toffee Buzz. What could be?

New Schnucks Eco-Friendly

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It seems to have gone largely overlooked, but Schnucks opened a new “earth-friendly” store in Newburgh, Indiana recently.

According to Schnucks Director of Facilities Engineering Ross Hutsel, Schnucks sustainability and “green” initiatives focus on reducing energy and water use, reducing contributions to landfill waste and increasing the use of recyclables and recycled materials. “Schnucks is pursuing a ‘building block’ approach that allows us to upgrade each new store with the latest advances in energy and water efficient technologies and building practices,” Hutsel said.

The interior includes energy efficient lighting, water efficient plumbing fixtures and accessories and an energy management system to control lighting, air conditioning, heating and refrigeration.

Now let’s do something about the food within…

Fast Food V. Slow Food

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There is a bar called Maryland House @ Brennan’s in the Central West End. I have never been there and honestly had no idea what it was until the owner of Pi, Chris Sommers, told me about a little something they do the first Wednesday of every month (that’s tonight). On that day (tonight I say) is Brennan’s Arguments and Grievances which is, in their own words, “a monthly event wherein the good citizens of St. Louis can stand up for the causes that matter least and, with their masterful oratory, command the minds and mirth of the crowd to decide the fate of such long standing and ridiculous feuds.”

Specifically Sommers told me about it because he was to be one of the opponents in Harley V. Vespa which you can catch online.

Specifically I tell you about it because (a) I’ve yet to make it and it sounds like a hell of a good time (especially if you could see a showdown like Jaws V. Jurassic Park) and (b) because the undercard tonight is a topic that doesn’t matter least to me, it’s Fast Food V. Slow Food with Sauce’s own April Seager taking the Slow roll of Carla Petrini.

Brief Thoughts and Questions About Reviews

Frank Bruni

One thing I’ve always found weird about the restaurant industry is that if you, as a restaurateur, go out of your way to send thanks for reviews, invite reviewers/media in, etc, it’s seen as a sleazy attempt to buy-off a review. In other industries, however, it’s simply good business.

While the reviewers do, certainly, have to refuse because they have to make their best attempt to get the dining experience of the common man, it simply doesn’t work well. Just look at NYC. Frank Bruni is the most powerful reviewer in the country, and everyone knows who he is.

So where should a reviewer toe the line? Can you contact a restaurant prior to opening via phone or email? Can you get non-menu items as long as the staff doesn’t know who you are? How does the dining public feel towards the anonymity of their reviewers in this digital age where anonymity is difficult to obtain?